With many of the world's top riders now in South Australia for the Tour Down Under which begins on Tuesday and is preceded by tomorrow's Cancer Council Classic, the 2011 racing year is about to get under way, bringing to an end what these days seems an increasingly shorter close season.
Here, in a piece penned for his blog (his new website goes live next week) Team Sky's Geraint Thomas reflects on his preparations for the new season, gives an insight into some of the things he's got up to off the bike over the winter, and reveals some of the glamorous - and not so glamorous - aspects of the jet-setting life of an international cyclist.
"Well the winter is pretty much over for me now. I will be jetting off to Australia for the Tour Down Under and I can’t wait!! I’ve spent some good time at home with Sara my girlfriend and my family over the last couple of months but the new season is fully underway now!!
"I feel like I’ve done some good training this winter. I’ve also been lucky enough to go to some of the Welsh rugby internationals where I was in a guest in the BBC Box at the Millennium Stadium with Nessa from Gavin and Stacy. That was cool and I was pretty star struck but Sara, my girlfriend, couldn’t even get a word out. That was funny!!
"I also got to see the Arsenal v Tottenham match at the Emirates and Cardiff City take on Coventry. Unfortunately the only game that ended in the right result was Cardiff [besides supporting his hometown club, Thomas is also an Arsenal fan].
"The bad weather didn’t affect me too much though, I was really lucky when the first lot of snow came in as I could still train on the roads around Chester. One day [Team Sky colleague Ian] Stannard and I even braved the Cat and Fiddle when it was closed, bit of a challenge!! I think we both thought we should turn back but once we’d committed…
"I then flew out to Majorca for the team training camp in mid-December. Here I got some good steady volume ‘in the bank’. However with the second lot of snowfall I wasn’t so lucky. I was training on the turbo in Sara’s garage (her dad doesn’t like me calling it a shed) for a week or so. Fortunately it soon thawed and I could train on the South Wales roads. "
"I love training around South Wales, it has some great climbs like the Bwlch, Rhigos and Tumble. It also has some lovely quiet lanes around the Vale of Glamorgan and the coast at Southerndown.
"Training back there reminds we of when I was growing up dreaming of riding the Tour de France so it’s great to get back. I also got some help from Darren Tudor, my coach while I was a junior, who braved the cold and motor paced me a few times. Anyway, now the trainings more or less done and it is time to get on with the important stuff, the racing, I can’t wait!!
"As I type I am travelling at 917km/h to Adelaide for the Tour Down Under. Well to be precise I’m actually above Kiev on the first leg of the journey, Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Fortunately the race organisers pay for the flights and have all the riders plus Directors (equivalent to football manager) in business class.
"It makes such a difference traveling up here at the front. Unfortunately Nige, the team nutritionist, has ‘advised’ me to avoid the plane food, due to all the preservatives/salt in it which would prolong the recovery from the flight. It’s a shame as the chicken satay with peanut sauce thing that the guy next to me is munching on looks pretty tasty!!
"We are due to arrive in Adelaide around 7am, Sunday morning [9 January]. The plan then will be to get a good breakfast in me, as I’ll be hungry after no plane food!! I’ll then probably head out on my bike for a couple of hours and then again in the evening, this should help me feel better and keep me awake, well I hope so, otherwise I’m in trouble!
"The best thing to do when traveling over different time zones is to try and get as much daylight as possible and to get into a routine straight away. So the next couple of days will be a struggle fighting to stay awake but hopefully it will help adapt quicker.
"I’m really looking forward to racing again!! It seems like such a long time ago that I actually pinned a number on. All the other lads are already out in Aussie having raced in the Bay Crits.
"They are also racing in the National Champs on Sunday. Would be nice if one of them could bring another national champs jersey to the hotel Sunday evening! [The victory on the day went to Garmin-Cervelo's Jack Bobridge, the only current rider to have gone faster than Thomas in the individual pursuit]. I’m looking forward to seeing them, they’re all a good bunch of guys and after last year it feels like we are a real team now.
"Our chances for the Tour Down Under are pretty good. We have a strong lead out, which is crucial for the bunch finishes (which most of the stages here will be). We also have a strong sprinter in Greg to finish it off.
"However the world's best sprinters in Cav, Greipel and Farrar are all here so it definitely won’t be easy! So it all kicks off on Sunday with the Cancer Classic Crit and then the Tour Down Under gets underway Tuesday 18th.
"Don’t forget to tune into Sky Sports for live coverage of the final two days. They are also showing some footage of me training in Wales along with an interview, keep an eye out!!
"By the way there’s no getting away from people that snore, even in business class! Also, my new website is going to be launched next week and I am really excited about that as it will give my fans the opportunity to ask me questions and keep in touch with me," Thomas concludes, and we will of course let you know once that is live.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.